Increasing Online Bookings & Conversion
By Mark Forrester ~Occupancy Marketing
Thursday, 3rd April 2008
How do you increase the online bookings of your hotel or tourism Web site? Occupancy Marketing looks at some practice ideas to increase online booking rates.

Your Web site can be viewed as your shop window to the world. Are you maximising the return from your shop window?

According to a report from PhoCusWright Inc., the Internet will account for over half (54%) of all U.S. travel bookings this year. Other studies indicate up to 75% of bookings are "influenced" by the Internet.

Occupancy Marketing, a UK based Internet Marketing company specialising in the hotel and tourism sector, provides some practical advice and guidance on how to increase online bookings and maximise the return from your Web site:

Ensure your content is up to date. Breaks and offers should be available on your site for the main areas of seasonal demand (Christmas, New Year, Valentines, Easter, and Summer). Your business segments (weddings, conferences, spa, etc) should also be adequately represented.

Without relevant content, search engines will not be able to find your business. If your Web designer doesn't provide you with a Content Management System, consider investing in a new site that allows you to manage and update your own content.

Although not appropriate for all types of accommodation, a good online booking system is becoming a pre requisite to maximising return. Ideally your booking engine will integrate with your property management system, allowing users to book real time inventory. If you do not have the facility to offer real time booking, consider using an online distribution management tool which will allow you to manage your own Web site inventory and selected third party Web sites like Expedia and Last Minute.com. Online Distribution Management Products (Rate Tiger and Channel Direct by Travel Click to name a few), save you time and allow you to manage your rates more effectively.

Rate parity is essential to achieving a good proportion of direct, non commissionable bookings via your own site. Ensure that your revenue management team is making the same or best rates available to book on your own Web site. Consider offering a best rate guarantee on your site to encourage more direct bookings.

Review your approach to online marketing. Do you have an online marketing strategy and if so, is it working for you? Unlike other forms of marketing, you should be able to accurately measure the returns from your Internet Marketing activity. Your online marketing strategy should include organic Web site optimisation (to achieve non-paid search engine results), paid search (Google AdWords), e-mail marketing and affiliate marketing (generating sales and traffic from relevant travel portals).

Finally, offer consumers the ability to interact with your site. Consumers are increasingly interested in Web 2.0 features like sharing photographs, videos, stories and reviews of a stay.

About the Author :
Mark Forrester is the founder and Managing Director of Occupancy Marketing, an Internet Marketing services company focussed on the hotel and tourism sector. The company specialises in driving direct, non commissionable bookings via the World Wide Web.
http://www.occupancymarketing.com, more articles: http://www.occupancymarketing.com/white-papers/

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